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In a country where symbols and stories in art and sculpture abound, it is understandable that the historical Italian urban landscape was filled with animals.
Some animals were on display as symbols of the cities, like the griffin (half lion, half eagle) of Perugia and the lion of Venice.
Others, carved into the stone façades of churches were decorative reminders of the importance of animals in their daily lives, such as horses and bulls (sometimes these represented the Butcher’s Unions).
There were animals with religious symbolism, such as the Evangelists – the winged lion (Saint Mark), the eagle (Saint John); and the winged ox (signifying sacrifice, service and strength) for Saint Luke.
And often, animals were positioned as guardians, usually in the form of the courageous lion, as seen in front of the castle in Norcia and the Arsenale in Venice. However, the real story of the lions sitting under the statue of Vittorio Emanuele II (guarding the King or the Piazza del Duomo of Milan?) will probably forever remain with the square’s 19th century architectural planner, Giuseppe Mengoni.